Nutrition and Aging - Dietary Recommendations for Seniors
Last Updated: May 8, 2015
Aging is a universal human experience, yet we still don't have a clear understanding of it's causes or ways to prevent it. Many suspect nutrition has a lot to do with the way and speed we age, and I think for a good reason. I have put together a summary of nutrition suggestions for seniors that, while not promising reversal of the aging process, are proven to assist in minimizing the damage old age inflict on our bodies and minds.
Dietary Recommendations for Seniors
Eat A Plant-based Diet.
Some of the benefits of this diet are:
- it is low in saturated fats and cholesterol (there is no cholesterol in plant foods).
- it is rich in antioxidants (such as vitamins A, C, E) and phytochemicals, which help in preventing and/or slowing the progression of some cancers.
- it is rich in fiber, which helps improves constipation, blood sugar control and lowers cholesterol levels.
Eat A Variety of Nutrient-dense Foods Every Day
These foods are important for maintaining a healthy weight, while at the same time providing adequate nutrition. Underweight is a common problem among seniors, and it may be caused by correctable things such as a decreased food intake due to poor dentition, or low appetite secondary to certain medications, etc. In other instances, underweight may be an indicator of a more serious medical condition. If you are underweight or losing weight, please talk to your doctor.
Emphasize Protein Rich-foods (such as beans and legumes)
Use the Modified Food Pyramid for Older Adults to build your daily menus. This modified food pyramid for seniors was developed by researchers from Tufts University to more accurately represent the calorie and special nutrient needs for healthy persons over the age of 70.
I included a simplified version of the pyramid in the image on the right side of this page - just click on it to enlarge it so you can read the text.
Eat At Least 3 Servings Of Calcium-rich Foods Daily
Calcium and vitamin D are important to maintain bone health. Try to take a walk or sit in the sun for 20-30 minutes several times a week, as your body makes its own Vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sunshine. During wintertime, when sunshine exposure is minimal, it is wise to take a vitamin D supplement. Calcium and vitamin D supplements are often given to senior adults (especially women) by their doctors in an attempt to minimize the risk of osteoporosis.
Most Seniors Need Vitamin B12 and Folate Supplements
Absorption of these vitamins lessens with age. Deficiencies of these two vitamins are a cause of treatable dementia.
Seniors Should Drink About 8 Glasses of Water Every Day
This is needed because of higher intake of medications and to prevent dehydration and constipation. Talk to your doctor about your individual water needs, as they may be different if you have certain medical conditions.
Seniors With Chronic Medical Conditions Benefit From a Professional Nutritional Consultation
For example, people who suffer from emphysema should eat less carbohydrates to minimize the production of carbon dioxide, which makes their breathing more difficult. Other examples include advising hypertension patients to consume foods rich potassium and calcium and low in salt, a natural way to lower blood pressure; or patients with heart failure who need to learn how to avoid salt.
Dr. Gily Ionescu MS, MD.
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